Grape harvesting underway in Central California

Grape harvesting machines light up the night during this time of the year. They slowly make their way through vineyards to shake off these Pinot Grigio grapes. The nighttime harvest works better for keeping the machinery running smoothly. “You’re basically smashing the grapes off of there,” says Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen. “There’s sugar everywhere and so during the daytime, you’re going to have that sugar crystalizing to the point where it’s going to gum up the machinery and everything else. Secondarily, you don’t want to start the fermentation process until you get to the winery.” Jacobsen is relieved to get his wine grapes off the vine.

Smoke from wildfires in the area wasn’t enough to cause any concerns with this year’s crop. The hottest July on record though was tough on area produce. “Specifically, what we saw with grapes was a delay in maturing, simply because plants are a lot like humans,” Jacobsen said. “They slow down when it gets over that 102 mark and we saw a lot of days that were well above that.” Pinot Grigio, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes are among the popular varieties that are grown here and enjoyed all over the world. “When you talk California wine, the Valley is the majority of where it’s grown,” Jacobsen said. “Approximately 70% of California’s wine is coming from the San Joaquin Valley.” When you look at Fresno County grapes, you’ll find roughly half of the crop goes into making raisins. The other half is split between wine grapes and table grapes.

Ace Hardware Announces Large Distribution Center in Central California

Retailer-owned hardware cooperative Ace Hardware Corp., Oak Brook, IL, announced it plans to build a gigantic distribution center in Visalia, California. The new retail support center will occupy more than 1-million-square feet and bring more than 400 jobs to the area. The new facility will augment the company’s Rocklin, California — in the greater Sacramento area — and Prescott Valley, Arizona distribution centers and will be centrally located in California, between Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The new Visalia distribution center will serve more than 300 Ace affiliated stores. Ace’s network of global distribution facilities serve more than 5,500 retail locations. Construction is slated to begin later this year. Ace said the distribution center would be fully operational in early 2023. “Ace Hardware continuously evaluates distribution capabilities to ensure we meet our growing business demands and offer the best support and service to Ace retailers and our wholesale customers,” said Jeff Gooding, Corporate Vice President of Marketing, Ace Hardware. “Opening this new facility is essential for Ace to keep up with our historic growth and better serve our network of retailers, and ultimately, our Ace customers.”

The Visalia distribution center will feature new technology, a climate-controlled environment, and improved automation to help to help streamline and enhance operations. It will also include space for future expansions.

Cruise is buying solar energy from California farmers to power its electric, self-driving fleet

Cruise, the self-driving car company under General Motors, has launched a new initiative called Farm to Fleet that will allow the company to source solar power from farms in California’s Central Valley. The San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report the news that Cruise is directly purchasing renewable energy credits from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight Companies to help power its fleet of all-electric autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

Cruise recently secured a permit to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles in San Francisco without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The company is also ramping up its march to commercialization with a recent $5 billion line of credit from GM Financial to pay for hundreds of electric and autonomous Origin vehicles. While this partnership with California farmers is undoubtedly a boon to the state’s work in progressing renewable energies while also providing jobs and financial opportunities to local businesses, Cruise isn’t running a charity here.

The California Independent System Operator has been soliciting power producers across the western United States to sell more megawatts to the state this summer in anticipation of heat waves that will boost electricity demand and potentially cause blackouts. Power supplies are lower than expected already due to droughts, outages and delays in bringing new energy generation sources to the grid, causing reduced hydroelectric generation. To ensure California’s grid can handle the massive increase in fleet size Cruise is planning, it seems that the company has no choice but to find creative ways to bolster the grid. Cruise, however, is holding firm that it’s got loftier goals than securing the energy from whatever sources are available. “This is entirely about us doing the right thing for our cities and communities and fundamentally transforming transportation for the better,” Ray Wert, a Cruise spokesperson, told TechCrunch.

With droughts continuing to plague California farmers, converting farmland to solar farms is a potential way to help the state meet its climate change targets, according to a report from environmental nonprofit Nature Conservancy. Which is why Cruise saw the logic in approaching Central Valley farmers now. “Farm to Fleet is a vehicle to rapidly reduce urban transportation emissions while generating new revenue for California’s farmers leading in renewable energy,” said Rob Grant, Cruise’s vice president of social affairs and global impact, in a blog post.

Fresno State, UC Merced ranked high on lists of nation’s best colleges. What to know

Fresno State, Fresno Pacific, and UC Merced are among the nation’s best universities in social mobility, according to U.S. News and World Report’s new 2022 college rankings. For this year’s rankings, the organization looked at the percentage of Pell Grant students who enter each university and the 6-year graduation rate of those students. Students eligible for Pell Grants are typically from low-income households. UC Merced ranked no. 4 on the list, with 62% of its fall 2013/2014 cohort Pell Grant-eligible, and 68% graduate within six years.

Fresno Pacific University, a private Christian university, earned a spot at no. 13. Fresno State ranked no. 21 — tying with UCLA — with 69% of Pell Grant receivers entering its fall 2013/2014 classes and 52% graduating within six years. Fresno Pacific also ranked no. 41 in regional universities in the west. Fresno State also earned the no. 53 spot on the list of best undergraduate engineering programs where a doctorate isn’t offered. The university earned no. 13 in the civil engineering category, no. 16 in electrical/electronic/communications, and no. 24 in mechanical, tying with several other schools. UC Merced moved up a few spots this year, tying at No. 93 in the national universities category, No. 38 in top public schools, and No. 57 in most innovative schools. It earned a No. 8 spot for the economic diversity of its students. The newest UC earned a few other spots, including tying for No. 58 in best undergraduate teaching and ranking no. 129 in best value schools.

Last year, UC Merced tied with UCLA and UC Irvine to earn the No. 1 spot for best student outcomes. The university has ran up the ranks in the last few years, improving in many categories, said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “This confirms yet again that what we do at UC Merced is making an impact on the world and greatly improving the lives of young people,” said Sánchez Muñoz. “Our reputation is solidly grounded in our world-class research and teaching, in the amazing students who join us every year and the successful alumni who tell our story.” This year Fresno State fell two slots to earn the No. 211 spot in the overall national ranking. It also fell in the category of top public schools, ranking No. 107 this year and 101 last year.

Now in its 37th year, U.S. World and News Report’s rankings evaluate more than 1,400 colleges and universities on up to 17 measures of academic quality, according to the organization.

Merced County kicks off $2.1M expansion on research and test site for autonomous vehicles

Construction kicked off this month on a planned $2.1 million expansion of an autonomous vehicle research and testing site at at Castle Commerce Center. The new expansion will allow vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators to utilize test areas that mimic real-world highway, rural and urban landscapes, according to a Merced County news release.

County officials have touted Castle’s proximity to Silicon Valley and expansive open space as a boon for tech companies like Google that have used the facility to test self-driving vehicles for some years. “This site embodies the future of transportation, and these technology developments are taking place right in our backyards,” Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel, whose district encompasses Castle Commerce Center, said in the release. “This project represents real-time job growth and economic development, with enormous potential as it continues to grow.”

Formerly called the California AutoTech Testing and Development Center, the 225-acre site has been renamed to TRC California for Transportation Research Center Inc., for the Ohio-based corporation that assumed facility operations earlier this year. A long-term goal for county officials was to pass facility management to a private third party expert that would take operations to the cutting edge of the developing autonomous vehicle industry. TRC is a leader in automotive testing and innovation that has led the facility’s design improvements, according to the release. “We are building out TRC California to offer a comprehensive, one-stop shop where automotive technology and mobility innovators can test and affirm the performance, safety, quality and competitiveness of new technologies that are changing the face of transportation worldwide,” Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC Inc., said in the release. “TRC is proud to partner with Merced County in this transformation.”

A 2 mile high-speed test track is the subject of the current construction phase by Central Valley-based Avision Construction. Installation of privacy fencing along the perimeter, vehicle barriers and security improvements for confidentiality purposes are also in progress. Work on this protect phase is anticipated to wrap up by Nov. 1. Central Valley-based Precision Civil Engineering is overseeing project engineering and construction management. “We are excited to begin this dramatic new chapter in Merced County’s progress as a focal point for testing and research by the West Coast’s technology-based industries, start-ups and independent innovators,” Mark Hendrickson, Merced County Director of Community and Economic Development, said in the release. “Advances developed here at TRC California will help make transportation safer, more efficient and more environmentally responsible.”

Construction will temporarily impact portions of the facility while other areas remain open for testing, the release said. Also being worked on is a control building and workshop, as well as installation of test equipment. The total project budget is $6.5 million being paid for via funding secured by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, through the California State Transportation Agency. TRC California has already attracted a number of companies that are actively testing at the facility. Facilities and staffing will keep expanding, including the addition of more roadway complexes, road surfaces and intersections all designed for testing advanced transportation technologies, the release said.

New industrial building planned in north Modesto could employ hundreds of workers

A new development proposes a 300,000-square-foot industrial building that could employ hundreds of people on Kiernan Avenue north of Modesto. The building, designed for light industry, is planned for the southeast corner of Tully Road and Kiernan. It will replace an almond orchard on the 17-acre site. Jackrabbit Equipment Inc., which makes equipment for the tree nut industry, has been discussed as a main tenant for the Kiernan facility. The company would use the building for consolidating Jackrabbit’s operations in Ripon and on Dakota Avenue in Modesto. Chief Executive Officer Bob DeMont said Thursday that 90 employees would work at the new building initially, but the number could grow substantially as the company expands.

The Stanislaus County planning commission considered the project earlier this month and recommended that county supervisors approve it. The project is set for the Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 17. According to a county staff report, Jackrabbit is expected to use half the facility, or 150,000 square feet. Libitzky Holdings of Emeryville, the applicant and developer, has not identified tenants for the other 150,000 square feet. “We would love to be able to accommodate Jackrabbit,” said Kevin Perkins, an associate principal for Libitzky, a real estate investment firm that owns properties in eight states. “We are building 300,000 square feet of Class A space that should be highly in demand,” Perkins said. “Modesto is in a real growth market and the location lends itself to being a prime industrial and distribution location for the state and western United States.”

Libitzky operates the Modesto Industrial Park, which is next door to the Kiernan and Tully property. The new cross-dock building could be built and completed by the second quarter of 2022, Perkins said. According to the plans, businesses leasing space could operate around the clock, seven days a week, three shifts per day, with up to 250 workers on each shift. That estimate includes other prospective operations in addition to Jackrabbit. County staff said Jackrabbit could occupy a larger portion or the entire building, but that has not been determined. The site is designed with 486 parking spaces; an excess amount of parking was included in the plans for flexibility as business tenants are sought.

Companies using the industrial building are expected to serve about 25 customers daily. The center will generate an estimated 1,488 truck and car trips per day. Libitzky applied to the county for approval because the site is in an unincorporated area outside the city limits. Modesto’s general plan designates the project location for business park development. For significant development projects inside a city’s sphere of influence, the county has a policy of first getting preliminary approval from the respective city. The county may approve the project after the city signs off.

Steve Mitchell, planning manager for Modesto, said the city has been in discussions with the county and supported the application because it’s an expansion of an industrial area. There are too many private properties between the city boundary and the Kiernan site for an annexation, he said. One of the city’s conditions for approval was extension of a line to the property and connection to city water service, but a sewer service connection is not available, Mitchell said. “We are working with the county on a tax-sharing agreement,” he added.

Intero Real Estate Services-East Bay Expanding to the Central Valley!

The Company is pleased to announce that their franchise is growing. A new office location will be opening in mid-August. This 3500-square-foot office space at 118 E. 11th Street, Tracy, CA 95376, is in the heart of Tracy. “I am truly honored to be part of such an amazing company under the leadership of Rishi Bakshi. I am looking forward to spearheading our Central Valley office in Tracy and being a part of this amazing opportunity for us all.”

Broker and General Manager, Rishi Bakshi says, “This new location will be our seventh office and we look forward to building a team there. In every market our agents serve, there is a community that will see a benefit from it. Tracy presents a great opportunity to be a difference maker not only in the real estate business but in the neighborhoods we service.” He also went on to announce that Sharmaine Capelli, current Broker and Assistant Manager of the Livermore Office, will be leading the new Tracy office as the Branch Manager. Ms. Capelli says, “I am truly honored to be part of such an amazing company under the leadership of Rishi Bakshi. I am looking forward to spearheading our Central Valley office in Tracy and being a part of this amazing opportunity for us all.”

Bank of America provides $385K to 9 Kern County nonprofits for workforce development

Bank of America today announced it has provided $385,000 in grants to nine Kern County nonprofits focusing on workforce development. The organizations receiving funding are: The Bakersfield College Foundation, Bakersfield Homeless Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County, Cal State Bakersfield, Circle of Life, CityServe Network, Community Action Partnership of Kern, Garden Pathways and the Kern Economic Development Foundation.

The bank said the funding supports programs and services that help build pathways to employment, including providing education and resources to rebuild careers that may have been impacted by the pandemic. “The strategic investment into immediate short-term and longer-term needs has been key in helping disadvantaged communities progress as the economy safely reopens,” said Karen Zuber, market executive for Bank of America Bakersfield. “By investing in Kern County’s incredible network of nonprofits, Bank of America provides philanthropic capital to help advance economic and social progress, enabling our community to succeed.”

Several Kern County nonprofits are already using their funding for various projects. BofA said Garden Pathways is using its grant to provide seven at-risk youth with paid internships to develop on-the-job skills training and is supporting 48 high school students in the juvenile justice system by providing enrichment opportunities to help mitigate the effects of their trauma. Bank of America said CAPK is training 20 homeless people through their HireUp program, which provides training in job interview preparedness, computer skills and customer relations.

Assemblyman Salas secures $6 million for Bakersfield College health education programs

Bakersfield College has reason to celebrate this week after getting word that the local community college will receive an additional $6 million in state funding secured by Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield. According to twin news releases from BC and Salas’ office, the funding will help the college expand and implement workforce training programs related to nursing and health care.

The funding comes in addition to $44.4 million Salas secured this year for a range of Central Valley projects and educational investments, Salas’ office said. “I am happy to champion more money coming to Bakersfield College,” Salas stated in the releases. “This additional $6 million will help train more nurses and health professionals for the valley so that our local families will have greater health access and options.” The funding is authorized in Assembly Bill 132, the higher education budget bill, which was signed Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

According to BC’s release, the projects proposed will include expanding the college’s Rural Health Equity and Learning collaborative, the Certified Nursing Assistant and Registered Nurse programs, and the allied health programs such as the new Physical Therapy Assistant program, while also providing funding for new post-pandemic student health and wellness services, and new certification programs, such as the Mental Health Worker Certificate. Sonya Christian, Kern Community College District Chancellor and past president of Bakersfield College, lauded Salas for his continued support of BC and higher education. “Assemblymember Rudy Salas makes things happen and his work embodies keeping the #ValleyStrong,” Christian said in a statement.

The college has been able to scale up several programs thanks to some $22 million in funding Salas has secured for BC in recent years, Christian said. “His continued commitment to career education directly supports students in ways that matter to their futures, health and success,” she said. Bakersfield College will use the direct $6 million investment for the following programs:

• Expanding the Rural Health Equity and Learning collaborative.

• Expanding the certified nursing assistant and registered nurse programs.

• Providing nursing scholarships for students who volunteered to serve in vaccination clinics.

• Expanding the Allied Health Simulation Laboratory.

• Expanding the radiology technology mammography and sonography programs.

• Adding the Mental Health Worker Certificate.

• Adding postpandemic student health and wellness services.

• Providing educational services to prevent chronic illness among at-risk rural residents.

AB 132 also provides an unprecedented $47.1 billion statewide investment in college affordability and access including:

• $115 million for Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree grant programs and open educational resources at community colleges to help address the rising costs of textbooks.

• $100 million to create Basic Needs Centers to help homeless and food insecure students access resources and enroll in CalFresh.

• $100 million for community colleges to increase student retention rates and enrollment.

• $2 billion to address housing and space needs at the UC, CSU and community colleges.

• Provides $20 million for CCCs to establish and expand High Road Training Partnerships and Construction Careers workforce development programs.

• Provides $6,000 per student in non-tuition support for Cal Grant students who are former foster youth.

• Expands the California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program to provide $500 base deposits to college savings accounts for public school students from low-income families, English learners and foster youth.

• Establishes the Learning-Aligned Employment program to help underrepresented students with financial need gain relevant work experience, promoting long-term employment opportunities.

• Establishes the Golden State Education and Training Grant Program to provide grants for education or high-quality training for workers displaced by the pandemic.

• Authorizes community colleges to use federal emergency relief funds to waive student fees for students who have unpaid fees due to impacts of COVID-19.

Mister Car Wash expands presence in California’s Central Valley

Mister Car Wash Inc. is expanding its presence California, United States, with the addition of two new Central Valley locations in Turlock and Riverbank, announce the company.

The Turlock location opened earlier this week, and the Riverbank location is scheduled to open in August. Mister has 39 locations throughout the Golden State.”We’ve seen tremendous growth in California since first entering the state in 2017,” said Ryan Darby, vice president of development and construction at Mister Car Wash. “These two new locations expand our footprint in the Central Valley and complement the existing network of stores throughout the region giving our customers and members even more options to keep their cars shining.”

Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, and with over 25 years of car wash experience, Mister Car Wash, Inc. operates over 340 car washes nationwide and has the largest car wash subscription program in North America.